Friday, October 9, 2015

What's the bus doing in the shoulder on I-405?

By Theresa Greco

In 2009, we started working with Sound Transit, King County Metro, and Community Transit on the details of the I-405 eastside express toll lanes. The transit agencies developed 14 recommendations to improve their operations in this corridor.  The improvements included shoulder transit lanes at ramps and along segments of I-405.  Their recommended improvements were submitted in fall 2009 to a group of east side mayors, county leadership and transit executives formed to advise WSDOT on eastside express toll lanes.

Safety is everyone’s top priority. Shoulders on I-405 southbound from SR 527 to NE 195th Street and SR 522 to NE 160th Street were widened by 3 feet to a total of 13 feet to accommodate our transit agencies’ buses. Buses using the shoulder will travel at 35 mph during the weekday morning commute between 6:00 am and 9:00 am and only when the regular traffic is running substantially slower than normal. The buses will flash their hazard lights when driving on the shoulder to alert other drivers. If there is a vehicle blocking the shoulder, they will move into the regular lanes.

Community Transit has been training their drivers and they are now prepared to use the bus shoulder lanes. This special access has been long in the planning will improve transit trips that start in several north end locations. The shoulder lanes will reduce the weave for buses which, before express tolling started, had to merge across all of the regular lanes to access the HOV lanes and then merge back to get to local park and rides in Bothell. This change helps drivers in all lanes by reducing congestion from merging buses.

Travel in the shoulder is for public transportation agency buses only and is allowed under several state provisions of law (RCW 46.61.165, 46.61.428 and 47.52.025.)

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Jeff Gray said...

Translation: W$DOT knew that the Extortion Toll Lanes would grind the GP lanes to a complete halt and went ahead with it anyway. Nothing stands in the way of fleecing the populace.

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Good morning, Jeff. By using the shoulders and not weaving across the lanes, we expect the people traveling in the general purpose lanes to see improvements. We will keep and eye on the performance of the change and let you know how it is working.

Ando said...

The general purpose lanes have not slowed. In fact, traffic has improved in these lanes. I know, because I've been driving in them from 124th St to 520 and back for two decades. My commute time has improved by 30-40% since the 405 express lanes opened.

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Many thanks, Ando for sharing your news! Please keep us up to date on your commute experience and the improved travel times!

Jeff Gray said...

Odd that Ando thinks this has improved. Was the ramp from 520 to 405 north backed up ON TO 520 every day pre Extortion Toll Lane launch? No, it was not.

Also, read a great little story today about thousands of people being double charged for tolls. The level of incompetence needed to create this disaster is staggering.

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Good afternoon, Jeff. I am alerting our traffic team of your experience on SR 520 to I-405. As you noted, we had a system error that we did not discover during testing which resulted in double billing. We sincerely apologize for the error effecting 3,000 transactions and 139 toll bills. We caught the problem before it reached the electronic accounts but we do not have phone numbers or email addresses to reach the toll bill recipients. They will be refunded and our contractor is adding a filter to avoid double billing. I hope you give us another chance.

Emily Pace said...

Thanks for your feedback Jeff Gray. We'll be monitoring the I-405 on-ramps to see how traffic is adjusting with the new express toll lanes.

We have caught the error with the double charges and are refunding all customers who have been impacted.

-WSDOT said...

So if buses are using the shoulder north of 195th, then why can't 2+ person carpools use the ETL for free? After all, the explanation of making it 3+ was to improve speeds for transit.

Ando, this article has nothing to do with the section from 124th to SR520. It is about the congestion and access points north of 522 where nothing was done to increase capacity. They just changed the rules to allow SOVs in what was the carpool lane while forcing 2 person carpools out.

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